Pilgrim's Path Daily

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

CHRISTIAN STUDY RESOURCES

"SOUL FOOD"
A Book By G. D. Watson - A 19th Century Deeper-Life Author
CHAPTER 5: "LUKEWARMNESS"

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(To HEAR the PREVIOUS Chapter, CLICK HERE)


The very thought of lukewarmness implies that the soul has previously been in a good, hot state of grace. Persons who have never known a good degree of fervor, either in a justified or a sanctified state, will never have the malady of lukewarmness. It is like pestilential insects, which attack thrifty, living vegetables, and not dry, dead sticks. We never think of a dry, rainless desert suffering from drouth. The very thought of suffering from drouth implies that the ground has previously been well watered.

It often happens that those who have been the most richly blessed with divine grace, and who have been lifted into fervent love, will imperceptibly decline into lukewarmness. Very few Christians on earth entirely escape this miserable tepidity altogether. One of the worst features about lukewarmness is that it steals on the soul in such quiet, respectable ways. If the horrible thing had horns and hoofs, and a smack of criminality in it, it would alarm the soul; but, as a rule, lukewarmness of spirit is so decent and well-behaved, that it chloroforms its victim and kills him without a scream of terror. This is what makes it so awfully fatal. While open sin slays in hundreds, nice, respectable lukewarmness slays in tens of thousands!

Could we get a vision of a soul that has been aglow with sanctifying grace, as it was beginning to get lukewarm, we would see a heart seemingly spotless and empty, with the heavenly dove and the good angels just on the outside, but with their faces turned away from it, as if about to leave; and, on the other hand, we would see unclean beasts and birds on the outside of the heart, but with their faces turned toward it, as if about to enter. We would see the eyes half closed, as if about taking a nap, and a dull, expressionless mouth, reminding us of a winter fireplace where the fire burns low. Oh, could the soul but see the awfulness of such a condition! [see "Saviour, YES! - LORD, NO!"; in "topical essays #2"]

Lukewarmness is indicated by a negligence in acts of piety, and a carelessness in fixed habits of devotion; such as daily reading God's Word, regular seasons of prayer, constant guarding of our conversation, seasons of fasting, and habits of divine and healthy meditation. There is not only a carelessness in the performing of these acts, but a dullness of spirit, a slovenness of mind, in the doing of them. As nearly all tightrope-walkers and lion-tamers sooner or later get killed in their foolish game by a little carelessness, so many Christians fall from elevated grace, and are devoured by lions, through a thoughtless and careless spirit in Christian duty.

Another symptom of lukewarmness is trusting to the magic of former grace. The soul has experienced, by an instantaneous regeneration, or an instantaneous sanctification, such floods of light and love as seem to sweep it out on an irrestible tide, and everything religious seems so easy, that everything works like a charm. But this very flood-tide of holy ease becomes a snare to the soul. It leans upon these instantaneous blessings to work by a sort of magic, and to take the place of patient, thoughtful perseverance. There are hundreds who are expecting the mere blessing of sanctification to take them through, and do not perceive that the chilling frost is settling down in the edges of their souls. It is as if a captain of a fine ship, after getting her out to sea, with the sails all set, and fairly in the wind, should lash the helm, and tell the crew they might take a holiday, expecting the wind and the ship, the chart and the compass, to do the balance. There are more souls doing this than we can dream of. [see "The {lukewarm} Captivation Of Nonchalance --or-- The Seduction Of Mediocrity --or-- The Addiction Of Indifference!", in "topical essays #1"]

Another element in lukewarmness is a sort of indefinite contentment with the present level of spiritual life. There is a quiet, unexpressed decision of the mind that the soul is getting on very well, and that it will settle down to its present thought and feelings. Most Christians have quietly decided to live the remainder of their days just about like they are now doing. They expect no further great epochs in their experience.

A great many holiness people are so afraid of what resembles a third blessing that they expect no great widening deluges of the Spirit, but nestle down in the thought that if they can only keep a clean heart, they will never bother themselves about the ocean-depths of boundless, melting, fiery love. Such souls are already on the decline, and do not know it. Their spiritual life resembles a quiet, lazy, drowsy summer Sunday afternoon. They feel the Saturday night's work has been well done up; and they can't bear the thought of the duties of Monday morning, and so spend the time napping. Even holiness preachers settle down into this Sunday afternoon condition, with just enough spiritual fervor to brush the summer flies away.

It is amazing how few Christians are seriously determined to get beyond their present experience; and of course they do not get beyond. And this lukewarmness manifests itself by a disposition to criticize as heretics those who do push beyond. The legalist suspicions the man as being erratic who knows his sins are forgiven. The merely converted man looks upon the fully sanctified with a good deal of suspicion, and even many who are sanctified regard any greater enlargements in the Holy Ghost life as bordering on heresy. And so it goes on. Will there ever be any end to the narrowness and the littleness of our minds and faith?

Another element in lukewarmness is the secret fact in the mind that the soul has done so much for God, has fought so many battles, endured so many afflictions, had so many uplifts of grace, that it can put itself on the retired list of the army and draw fully pay. This is a very subtle disposition, and the soul hardly dares to whisper it to itself, for the conscience feels its meanness is like the gunpowder plot, which must not be breathed: and yet, where is the saint who has known much of God, into whose mind this low, sneaking thought has not crept? God only knows how many of His children, once hot with holy love, are living, like broken-down aristocracy, on the faded splendors of the past. Their experiences resemble faded photographs, or the withered flowers that were used at last week's funeral.

Another feature in lukewarmness is the hidden complaint which the soul takes to itself, that glowing fervor is only a juvenile thing which is outgrown, and that it is now "serving God on principle." All states of toning down in spiritual life are accompanied by some sort of self-complacency. When the soul begins to think less of God, and of the precious Blood, and of the Holy Ghost, it begins to think of itself.

This thought of serving God on cold principle indicates a sad state: it may not be ruinous to one's life, but it is ruinous to deep spirituality. One of the worst things about it is its respectability. It keeps in the beaten path of decent religion; no one can lay any charge against it; it can pass in and out around any circle of Christians; it does nothing to call down severe rebukes; it is an old, sober, well-behaved thing, keeping on good terms with everybody and everything in general. If only something terrific would happen to it; if it could be hurled to the dust in humiliation and mortification; if it could only be set weeping and wailing, it would be an infinite advantage to it. But such a miserable state of the soul is so pleasing to the devil that he will not even tempt it to commit any great sin, lest it should be shocked into renewed repentance and fervor of grace. The devil likes to bury hot religious experience in a smooth shroud of cold virtue.

There is one more symptom of lukewarmness, and that is a dull sense of breaking with God. The heart feels that something is not just right. The orthodoxy is all right; the outward life may be correct; the verbal testimony kept up; and all Christian duties in a general way looked after; but the animating spirit is weakened. There is no conscious touch from God; no sense of fullness dilating the heart; no sweet vision of God's Attributes; no bright, far- away fields open to it in secret prayer; no lowly feeling of kissing the Savior's feet; no rapt adoration of His Majesty; no sweet hymns vibrating in the mind during the sleep; no melting, yearning love for the saving of souls; no spells of divine laughter rippling through the mind; no bullet-like piercing of the words of Scripture; no whispering of the Holy Ghost as of old; no conscious grasp on the Throne through prayer.

The flash has left the eye; the smile from the lip; the divine throb from the heart; the promptness has left the will; the gentleness has left the voice; the third heavens, with its retinue, have gone off somewhere. Some unpleasant, undefinable, unexplorable something has settled on the inner spirit; it has ceased to feel toward Jesus as a real Lover; it is getting offensive to the Holy Spirit; and unless something can be done to rekindle its fading fires, it will nauseate the Infinite Heart, and Christ will spew it out of His mouth! This is an awful metaphor, and indicates the awfulness of lukewarmness.

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